The cars from the shower have cleared out. I do a perimeter check, talk with the gate manager to ensure there were no stragglers, and then make my way back to the pool house.
“I brought the pizza,” I say to the door. “It’s a take and bake and while there’s a pizza oven out here you know that takes hours to heat up. I could die from hunger by the time the pizza is done. As a good deed, you could open the door and let me use your oven. In exchange, I’ll give you half the pizza. It’s got pineapple and extra cheese.”
“You’re not bribing me with pineapple and extra cheese,” says a soft voice.
“I mean, I got to bring something to the table. Can’t come empty handed.”
“I blew up at you.”
“Vi, I would’ve been mad as hell, seeing shit like that on your phone. My mom is obsessed with babies because Dad is an asshole, but they won’t get divorced like healthy humans because they’re Catholic. She thinks having grandbabies will make her life better but that has nothing to do with you or me.”
“But that’s why you need to move on from me, Sebastian. I’m not going to be able to give you what other women can. I can’t leave this house. I am scared around new people. This isn’t normal.”
She sounds sad and defeated. My hand crumbles the edge of the cardboard. “Who gets to decide what is normal? And who wants normal? I run a security firm, and there’s no limit to the crazy shit I’ve seen. You’re you, Violet. That’s why I can’t move on. You’re not replaceable. There’s not another Violet in the world, and if all I’m allowed to do is sit outside the pool house and talk to you through the door and eat unbaked pizza, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Said door opens, and Violet’s head pops out. “You’re not really eating raw pizza? You could get sick from that.”
I put on the most pitiful look possible. “I can’t be left to my own devices, Violet. Save me.” I hold the pizza up as an offering.
She hesitates and then snatches the box out of my hand. “Come in then.”
I get to my feet and follow her in. “I brought beer too.”
“Just beer and pizza? I feel cheap.” She flips on the oven.
I open my arms. “I bring me. I’m not worth a lot but something?”
“A few coins, I guess,” she jokes. “Put the beer in the fridge.”
I stow away the booze and then grab my phone. “Forgot to text my mom back.”
Violet’s head pops near my hands and she reads as I type.
Me: As you know, I’m Vi’s so no can do on meeting other women. I’ll take you to the shelter next weekend and you can get a dog.
“Oh,” she says quietly.
“Can I have a dog, too?”
“Babe, you can have anything you want.”
“But I can’t go to the shelter.” Her pretty mouth turns upside down.
“I’ll FaceTime you from the shelter. You pick out the ones you want a closer look at and then I’ll bring them to you.” An idea pops in my head. “You know, Vi, you could foster pets.”
“It’s where you take in animals that get abandoned and domesticate them while the shelter tries to find a home for them. It takes a lot of time and attention and requires people to be home a lot.” I raise my eyebrows. “What do you think?”
Her face is growing bright with interest. “I think I’m interested. This might be better than pizza and making out.”
“Okay, no need to start being unreasonable now.”
Violet laughs, hard, and for the first time in a long time, a weight on my chest lifts.
“What’s your poison?” Sebastian asks as he scrolls through the list of movies on the screen.
I grab the bowl of popcorn, heading over toward him before he ends up picking something terrible. I watched enough bad movies growing up with Miles to know men can’t be trusted selecting the movie.
My brother has always been a bit of a history buff and could watch old war movies for hours. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a war movie every now and then, but watching too much of that shit gets depressing fast.
“Comedy? Action?” I suggest, setting the bowl down on the ottoman in front of the sofa.
“Not a romance?” I look at the screen, seeing Beauty and the Beast.
“No thanks.” I plop down on the sofa. “It’s so stupid,” I mumble more to myself.
“I’ve never met someone with such a dislike for Beauty and the Beast.”
“Cause it’s a bunch of crap. She didn’t fall in love with the prince. She loved the beast and then he’s just gone.” I throw my hands up in irritation. Sebastian is staring down at me with a giant smile on his face. “All I’m saying is who wants a stuffy pretty boy prince when you can have the beast? The prince can check back when he’s a king. Then maybe we’ll talk.”